UK car production fell -27.3% in January to 86,052 units, according to the latest figures issued last week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
(SMMT). With a fall of 32,262, this was the worst January performance since 2009, and a 17th consecutive month of decline. Multiple factors, including the ongoing effects of the pandemic, global supply chain issues, extended shutdowns and friction in the new trading arrangements following the end of the Brexit transition period, affected output.
Car manufacturing for both home and overseas markets was down, to 16,692 and 69,360 units respectively, representing falls of -18.3% and -29.1%. While exports still accounted for more than eight in 10 of all cars made in the month, shipments to major markets the European Union (EU), USA and Asia all fell by double digits, down -26.2%, -34.5% and -36.1%.
In better news, the growth in UK production of battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) seen in 2020 continued, with combined output of these vehicles rising 18.9% in January to 21,792 units. This means more than one in four (25.3%) of all cars leaving factory gates was alternatively fuelled, further evidence of the UK’s growing capability in ultra-low and zero-emission vehicle manufacturing.
The news comes as the sector counts the £11.3 billion cost of lost car production since March 2020. While manufacturing businesses remain open, weak demand hindered by the ongoing closure of new car showrooms is affecting production volumes.
The SMMT is now urging the Chancellor to use this week’s Budget to announce measures that enhance UK automotive manufacturing competitiveness, with an extension of Covid-19 business support schemes including the CJRS furlough, amendments to business rates reform to incentivise manufacturing investment and more support for skills and training.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Yet another month of decline for UK car production is a grave concern and next week’s Budget is the Chancellor’s opportunity to boost the industry by introducing measures that will support competitiveness, jobs and livelihoods.
“While there have been some very welcome recent announcements, we need to secure our medium- to long-term future by creating the conditions that will attract battery gigafactory investment and transform the supply chain. Most immediately, however, we must get our Covid-19-secure car showrooms back open, ideally before 12 April. This will be the fastest way to UK automotive manufacturing recovery.”